SPOKANE, Wash. - According to the Spokane Regional Health District, two homeless adults living in Spokane County died from complications associated with their hepatitis A infections.
As of Tuesday, November 19, the Health District confirmed a total of 61 cases of hepatitis A in Spokane County. Most of the cases occurred in people living homeless and/or who use drugs. The risk to the general population is low.
"Unfortunately, the population most at risk of hepatitis A exposure - those who are homeless or use illicit drugs - are also more likely to have many other health issues," Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said. "When infected with hepatitis A, the illness is the final straw that results in hospitalization and possibly death."
The Health District's disease prevention and response team has conducted multiple vaccination clinics since June when the outbreak was declared. More than 1,600 vaccines have been administered throughout Spokane County. Vaccines can also be obtained from healthcare providers and pharmacies.
The team has also conducted education programs and outreach to healthcare providers, community centers and homeless service providers that teach vulnerable populations the risks of contracting hepatitis A.
In Spokane, roughly 70 percent of the cases have been hospitalized. The Washington State Department of Health is monitoring hepatitis A outbreaks throughout the state. Multiple counties in Washington have reported cases. A statewide outbreak was declared in July.
The hepatitis A virus infects the liver and can cause illness ranging from a mild infection with no symptoms to a more severe illness that can last for months. The virus usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus after touching an object, food or drink contaminated with the virus.
More information and resources on hepatitis A can be found HERE.